In the quest for practicality over indulgence, a sentiment often echoed within the academic corridors of the university, a peculiar scene unfolded one crisp spring morning on campus. Amidst the familiar hustle of students rushing to their 07:30 lectures, a unique entrepreneurial endeavour caught the attention of passersby. Positioned near the Duxbury entrance, two enterprising students had set up shop. One held a transparent bucket, while the other brandished a sign that simply read, “R5 Muffins”.

With the memory of a hearty breakfast still fresh and no immediate craving for muffins, most students continued with their hurried march. However, as the day unfolded, the lingering intrigue of that early morning led to a broader exploration of campus sustenance options.

The standard price point for a quick campus snack is R10, a humble donut from Spageti. While two donuts might satisfy the hunger pangs, students driven by fiscal prudence could not ignore the allure of potentially better value elsewhere. Offering maximum value at a minimal cost forms a compelling proposition for any university student. This notion resonates with the pair of budding entrepreneurs who make their mark on mornings, near the Duxbury and Lunnon entrance.

This divergence from typical campus fare presents a fascinating insight into the entrepreneurial spirit thriving within the student body. While muffins may not be everyone’s preference, the irresistible appeal of discounts and other offerings, such as vibrant mats, serves as a testament to the innovation fostered among young business minds. Within the confines of our academic community, numerous transactions occur, facilitated by a shared understanding of student life and a digital-first approach to commerce.

As Gen Z, heralded as the first generation truly native to the digital realm, spends significant time online, shopping is no exception. This demographic values products endorsed by peers within online communities and relishes genuine interactions with sellers. Furthermore, financial prudence is a hallmark of students’ spending habits, with impulse purchases viewed sceptically. Recognising these proclivities, student-run businesses tailor their offerings accordingly. However, a question persists: why are these student ventures not at the forefront of university commerce, and what steps can be taken to change this status quo?

The financial aspect poses a significant challenge for student entrepreneurs. Limited capital often restricts the realisation of ambitions, even when the target is the entire university community. Business uncertainties compounded by financial constraints create barriers to accessing conventional sources of funding, such as bank loans. Although students may excel within their niche, they may lack proficiency in critical business domains such as marketing, research, financial management, and effective communication. Trust becomes an issue, both forbusinesses and customers, as transactions often hinge on reputation with few guarantees or safeguards against fraud. While the university may seem an easy target for blame, alternative solutions beckon.

People often remark that UP is like a microcosm of “the real world”. University students represent a diverse resource pool, boasting a range of specialised talents and skills poised to meet the demands of the business world. Many students unite within societies that explore these passions and talents. Consulting societies delve into the unique challenges faced by each business, offering tailored analysis. Marketing-oriented societies and content creators provide valuable insights into effective marketing strategies. Finance and investment societies possess the potential to foster grassroots-level market understanding while extending micro-investments to student-run enterprises. With knowledge capital in abundance, it is high time these resources were harnessed.

“But what’s in it for me?” one might ask. Compensation need not be solely financial, as value encompasses more than just monetary gain. Practical experience, the development of soft skills, networking opportunities, and a diverse array of abilities can all thrive in a collegiate environment. The establishment of mini-stock exchanges, miniature audit and consulting firms, and marketing agencies within student societies presents an exciting avenue for exploration. Rather than merely catering to HR needs, these societies could pivot toward instilling hands-on value creation principles from the very beginning of a student’s journey. The alignment of student enterprise and student professionalism should be more than a goal; it should be a reality. For entrepreneurs, the wisdom lies in leveraging the talents of your peers. While the capital challenge may persist in the short term, tapping into the knowledge and creativity of the underappreciated student body might well be the catalyst for the success of a million campus traders.

Prioritising value creation and a touch of good fortune can pave the path to achievement. As we continue to contribute value to one another, even in the humble form of a R5 muffin, both the world and the money in our pockets have no choice but to take notice.

Joshua Chirove
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